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Disclaimer: I don not own any of the characters. =]
The world as I knew it came crashing down around me. The word was still ringing in my ears, reminding me of my unworthiness. Never before had I felt so degraded. Nobody had ever made fun of me because of my blood-line. I could feel the tears burning my eyes as they ached to fall. My face was thunderous, but I didn’t cry. Not here, right in front of them. Not yet. I stared into his eyes unblinkingly whilst others jumped to my defence, but I didn’t need them. I was stronger than this.
I was about to tell them to forget it when someone moved quickly beside me, revealing an old battered wand held together with tape. My eyes widened in horror as a flash of light burst from the end. Yet, Draco Malfoy was still standing. In fact he was laughing. I turned my back to him, my eyes confirming my horrors. Ron was doubled over on the floor, looking increasingly uncomfortable. I bent down to help him stand, along with Harry, my hands stroking him gently. Malfoy was still laughing behind us. I turned furiously towards him, me eyes menacing. I glared at them before walking away with the other two towards Hagrid’s.
I walked in silence, the tears falling silently. The insult still echoed in my ears. The effect worsening each time I heard it. My stomach sank. I had thought that by studying harder than the others, perhaps my bloodline would be overlooked. I cried even harder, sobbing into my hands. I could see Harry looking over as he was heaving Ron, who was now vomiting slugs, to the hut. He looked at me sympathetically. I looked away, my eyes settling on Ron.
I noticed how gifted he was. He had not muttered an incantation, yet he had produced the correct spell, albeit with incorrect consequences. I admired him. I don’t think he had realized, or Harry for that matter, just what he had done. He was far more talented than he would ever realize. I smiled to myself. I knew I was indebted to him. I decided that whenever Ron was underestimating his ability, I would support him. He was better than he thought, and I knew it. He was exceptionally skilled. A rued hue reached my cheeks as I considered it. He had performed extraordinary magic already, all because I had been insulted.
Insulted. The word shot through me like a bullet through paper. Mudblood. Dirty blood. Failure. Not good enough. Worthless. Insignificant. Unimportant. Me. That’s exactly how I felt. That is how he had made me feel. I knew that it was only Draco Malfoy, yet the word clung to me like a musky scent that I was unable to get rid of. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of being inferior. I looked at my two friends, one supporting the other. Supporting. That was exactly what Ron had done for me. He had supported me. When others were degrading, he fought for me. He had nothing to gain from it, yet he still did it. A flitter of hope rose from the pit of my stomach. Maybe I wasn’t worthless. Ron wouldn’t have defended me if I was, would he?
I smiled as I looked at him. His Gryffindor bravery had shone through. He had stood up to Malfoy. I hadn’t asked for it, nor did I need it, yet he still did it. He cared enough about me. My tears subsided as I continued to think of our friendship. The more I thought about it, the more it cheered me up.
I remembered when the two of them saved me from the troll in our first year. Yes, it was Ron who had insulted me, but he cared enough to save me. On that occasion he had accepted me as a friend. From that moment we had spent the majority of our time together, yet we weren’t best friends. Even after Harry defeated Quirrell, we weren’t best friends. But now, everything had changed. He had defended me against Malfoy without being forced to. He had chosen to defend me.
My heart skipped a beat as I processed that thought. He wasn’t just my friend because Harry was. Ron had actually chosen to be my friend. I was ecstatic. He was a hero in my eyes. It was in this moment that I could truly see all of the great qualities that he had. He was not the sulky, overindulgent boy that I had originally thought. He was brave, fiercely loyal and chivalrous. I blushed as he caught my eye. I knew I could never thank him enough for what he had just done. I would be forever indebted to Ron Weasley because he fought for my pride.
As we entered Hagrid’s hut, I realized that Ron was in a worse state than I had originally thought. He was vomiting slugs every few seconds, each leaving their slimy trail like ink on paper. His face was a putrid green colour, his lips two white clouds on his face. He was in a very bad state, yet not once did he complain. I admired his courage. I knew had it been me I would have complained endlessly. Ron on the other hand kept looking at me sympathetically, as though it was me who’d been vomiting slugs. I appreciated his caring glances as we explained the situation to a very confused Hagrid, who had given Ron a bucket.
I noted that it hadn’t been Harry who had fought for me. He had avoided a confrontation, yet Ron had thrown himself wholeheartedly into it. Harry, who was known to be brave and loyal, hadn’t done anything. Perhaps Ron was braver than Harry? I was not angry or disappointed with Harry, merely surprised that it had been Ron who had shown courage and allegiance.
The slugs seemed to be subsiding and colour was returning to a very pale Ron’s cheeks. I walked over to him and sat next to him. I threw my arms around him giving him a friendly hug. I needed him to know how much I actually appreciated what he had done. I don’t think he would ever understand how much it meant to me. I had truly seen him in a new light. He wasn’t the coward who followed Harry. He was a leader in his own right. He was the proud defender of my honour. He looked at me and smiled knowingly.
“Geroff me Hermione!” he said gruffly. I laughed softly and released him.
That day had changed our relationship forever. I don’t think either of us realized at the time, but looking back I know that it took us to a new level of trust. I smiled as I thought of the progress we had made since then. I looked at the man sitting next to me. He was still as loyal and as brave as he had been in second year. But something had changed in him. He now understood just how skilled he was. He was happy to defend his beliefs and would fight those who went against them. He was no longer a lost little boy; he was a man, and a better man than most. He smiled sweetly at me, his blue eyes shining in the sun. He glanced down at my swollen stomach and rubbed it soothingly.
“I love you,” he said simply. Yes, that’s right, he loved me. Ron Weasley loved me. I loved him. Our friendship had grown and developed into love. I placed my hand on his gently. Our love had developed into the child who was growing inside of me. I was happy. We were happy. I was thoroughly contented, I had my hero, and I adored him. And as for the mudblood… I am still her, and I am proud of it.